OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|against||Docket #FIC 1998-050|
|Brian J. Miller,
Director of Development
Services, Department of Development
Services, Town of Berlin; and Department
of Development Services, Town of Berlin,
|Respondents||June 10, 1998|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 31, 1998, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of §1-18a(1), G.S. (prior to October 1, 1997, §1-18a(a), G.S.).
2. By letter dated January 19, 1998, the complainant requested that the respondents provide him with copies of:
all records of the Town of Berlin of the denial of any application for site plan approval based upon the lack of a key map on the site plan blueprint as submitted by the applicant to the Berlin Planning & Zoning Commission between January 1, 1994 and January 1, 1998; andall records of the Town of Berlin of the submission of site plan applications which contain no key map in the original site plan as filed and submitted to the Berlin Planning Commission or the Berlin Planning and Zoning Commission between January 1, 1994 and January 1, 1998.
3. By letter dated January 26, 1998, the respondents denied the complainants request as described in paragraph 2, above, on the grounds that such request did not identify specific documents; in the alternative, the respondents offered to make all files for site plan applications available for the complainants review and to provide the complainant with any copies he requested upon payment of a fee.
4. By letter dated February 12, 1998 and filed on February 19, 1998, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by denying his request as described in paragraph 2, above. The complaint asked that sanctions be imposed upon the respondent director.
5. It is found that the records of the respondents are public records within the meaning of §§1-18a(5) and 1-19(a), G.S.
6. Section 1-19(a), G.S., in relevant part states:
[e]xcept as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency shall be public records and every person shall have the right to inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15 (Emphasis added).
7. Section 1-15(a), G.S., in relevant part provides:
[a]ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record. The fee for any copy provided in accordance with the freedom of information act (2) by [municipal] public agencies, as defined in section 1-18a, shall not exceed fifty cents per page .
8. It is found that the complainant has been given many opportunities to review the site plan application files and has not been denied access to such files by the respondents. It is further found that the complainant has not been denied access to the minutes of Berlin Planning and Zoning Commission minutes.
9. It is found that the site plan applications maintained by the respondents date back many years and that such applications are filed by neighborhood, rather than by type or date. It is further found that such applications may be denied for a variety of reasons and that in order to determine the reason a particular complaint was denied, the respondents would have to open and review every site plan application in their custody.
10. It is concluded that the complainants request, as described in paragraph 2, above, calls for research on the part of the respondents. The FOI Act does not require public agencies to perform research for requesters. Ethan Book, Jr. v. Freedom of Information Commission, No. CV97-0567176 and Ethan Book, Jr. v. Freedom of Information Commission, No. CV97-0566436, Sup. Ct., Judicial District of Hartford/New Britain (McWeeny, J.) (Jan. 28, 1998). Consequently, it is concluded that the respondents did not violate §1-19(a), G.S., by denying the complainants request for copies of records as described in paragraph 2, above.
11. At the hearing, the respondent director testified that Notices of Decision of the Berlin Planning and Zoning Commission are kept in a separate file, although copies of some such Notices may also be contained in the individual site plan application files. After the hearing, the complainant filed a brief wherein he contended that prior knowledge of such a file of Notices of Decision would have assisted him in his attempt to assemble information and would likely have avoided the necessity of filing his complaint with the Commission.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.
2. Although the Commission concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act in this matter, it notes the complainants contention described in paragraph 11 of the findings above. The Commission observes that providing assistance to the public with respect to inspection of public records can in many instances avoid the need for hearings at this Commission, and the respondents are urged to provide such assistance in the future.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 10, 1998.
_________________________ Doris V. Luetjen Acting Clerk of the Commission
PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S., THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.
THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:
Michael Nelson 1801 Wilbur Cross Highway Berlin, CT 06037
Brian J. Miller, Director of Development Services, Department of Development Services, Town of Berlin; and Department of Development Services, Town of Berlin c/o Atty. E. Timothy Sullivan, Jr. Gaffrey, Kane, Reynolds, Sullivan & Vollmer 1 Liberty Square New Britain, CT 06051
__________________________ Doris V. Luetjen Acting Clerk of the Commission